Battling against mosquitos, ants, and other annoying summer invaders? Experts reveal how to get rid of bugs with natural remedies in your yard and home.
Ward off mosquitoes with three W’s.
To avoid becoming a mosquito snack this summer, consider these three easy W’s, the first of which is white. As in, simply wear light-colored clothes, suggests Jonathan Day, PhD, a University of Florida entomology professor and national expert on controlling mosquitoes. The pests are highly visual and attracted to dark colors, so wearing white, beige, or light pink makes you much less of a target.
The next W is weave: “Try to go for tighter fabrics, like polyester, because mosquitoes won’t be able to penetrate it.”
The last W in your anti-bug arsenal is wind: “Mosquitoes can’t fly in even slight wind,” reveals Day. “If you’re having a barbecue, consider setting up a box fan to create a breeze that’ll knock them right off course.”
Also smart: Bugs are drawn to folks with a higher metabolic rate, meaning those of us expending more energy to breathe are bloodsucker bait. Just one more reason to let yourself sit back and relax on your outdoor furniture.
Keep ants at bay with a pepper sachet.
When we eat something spicy, we feel the burn. And tiny insects get the same painful sensation, only worse! That’s why one of the most effective ways to repel common “home invaders” — like ants and pantry moths — is to turn to black pepper, which bugs naturally avoid due to its hot bite, reveals Stephanie Tourles, author of Naturally Bug-Free ($10.95, Amazon).
“I put whole or ground peppercorns into potpourri bags and place them in the kitchen pantry,” she says. “It’s a trick that’s worked for centuries.” Super-spicy cayenne pepper provides an even bigger punch. “These hot pepper flakes work especially well against ants.”
Banish ticks with vodka ‘cologne’.
Lyme disease is the fastest-growing bacterial illness in the US, with 30,000 new cases each year — but you can stay safe with a little vodka, shares Tourles.
To make her tick-repelling spray, just fill a 2-oz. spray bottle with 100-proof plain vodka, 12 drops of geranium essential oil, and 12 drops of lemon eucalyptus essential oil. Mix and spritz.
“The vodka boosts the bug-repelling compounds in the oils, maximizing their effectiveness,” she explains. “It’s my favorite spray because it smells wonderful and works great!” Since healthy, natural repellents evaporate over time, just reapply every 30 minutes. “Focus your spritzing on your pants, from hips to ankles.”
Take the ouch out of bug bites:
- Relieve a bee sting: The key to soothing these stings is neutralizing the acidic venom. Create a paste of equal parts baking soda and water and leave it on the irritated area for about 30 minutes. Explains Tourles, “The alkaline in baking soda counteracts the acid in the venom.”
- Soothe a hornet bite: Soak a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and place it on your skin, keeping it in place with a bandage for 30 minutes. The acidity in the vinegar nullifies the alkaline hornet sting. No apple cider vinegar? Lemon juice also works.
- Cool down an ant attack: Just keep a bottle of aloe juice or gel in the fridge this summer, advises Tourles. Placing chilled aloe on your skin eases the inflammatory heat and swelling caused by “hot” ailments like ant or mosquito bites by delivering anesthesia — like coolness. Aah, relief!
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This story originally appeared in our print magazine.